Winging It

You could probably safely call me a control freak, with a side of OCD. It’s just who I am, how I’ve always been. I’m a neat freak. I like things in their places. I crave order. I love routine. Change is difficult – it throws me off my game. I’m a planner, down to the smallest details. I hate when plans are derailed. Know what challenges all of that? Having kids, and living life.

We had Little Man’s birthday party Saturday evening. Now,  he is kid #3. I’ve spent sixteen years going crazy over birthday parties – handmade invitations, sleepovers with 13 kids, tea parties, American Girl trips, Pinterested out decorations/cupcakes/games. When he said he wanted a sleepover, I shot it down. First, I’m tapped on the sleepover birthday parties, seriously., and it was the night before I was running a 15K race. No go, my friend. His second idea was a trampoline park. Oh yeah! 1) I love any party that’s not at my house; 2) I wouldn’t’ have to provide any entertainment; 3) Food and drinks were included; 4) Did I mention it wasn’t at my house?

And so let’s just say, I was purely focused on the detail of getting the kids there, bringing them home, and the cake we were allowed to bring in. Have I mentioned things have been a little crazy around our house lately, and that I had a nine-mile race to run the next morning? See where this might be headed?

First off, Little Man, while having good friends, does not have a ton of friends, so his party was small. Spouse was at a golf tournament, so I was the solo parent. The trampoline park set aside three tables for us in their party area – THREE! We all fit, with room to spare, at one table. I put the cake and gifts on another table just so we wouldn’t look so pathetic. We also didn’t have any decorations. He isn’t a little kid, so there wasn’t a theme involved, and honestly, decorations never even crossed my mind. While the kids jumped, I sat there, by myself, at a huge, empty table, no decorations, not a ton of gifts, no other adults. #loser

I also didn’t bring any extra snacks or drinks. I knew pizza and soda were coming, and we were only there for two hours. So imagine how amazing I felt when the kids came back to the party area looking for hydration? I gave them a few dollars to get waters out of the machine as our sodas weren’t coming for another half hour.

Then it hit me….I had cake, but I hadn’t brought enough candles. neither did I have anything with which to light the candles I did have. I didn’t have any cake plates, nor forks, nor napkins. Even more, I didn’t have a cake cutter. The kids figured out something was going on, and I was honest with them. They just started laughing. So did I. Stress broken. We joked about using one of the paper pizza plates to cut the cake. When we did sing, “Happy Birthday”, a few of the kids held their fingers over the cake as imaginary candles.

They all helped clean up when we were ready to go. I checked out while they headed out to load up the car. When I arrived at my car, the Princess asked if the cake cutter the park had loaned us was ours to take. They’d efficiently, in their cleaning and gathering, packed the cake cutter in the cake box. Hysterics ensued. P took the cake cutter back into the trampoline park, from which I’m fairly sure we’ve been blackballed. And oh man, did we all laugh on the way home. I apologized for being a loser, overwhelmed mom, and for messing it all up. One of the boys said, “This is the strangest, but most fun, birthday party I’ve ever been to,” and one of the girls said, “I wish my mom were more like you. This is fun.” Hah!

Not one of them cared. Not one of them felt the party was ruined by my phoning it in Everyone had a good time. Everyone had enough to eat. Everyone jumped and had a good time.  That’s all that matters right?

I’m learning you don’t always have to plan to the last detail, especially when it comes to kids.  Sometimes things turn out better when you just wing it, rather than stressing about every little thing. And often, when you admit you’ve messed up, and are able to laugh at yourself, everyone around you will have your back. I can’t control everything. I certainly can’t control everyone. I’ve learned that while my need for order, control, organization, and routine is okay, it isn’t the end of the world when things don’t go the way I planned. Sometimes,  you get a better result when you epicly “fail.”


Since our kids were little, we’ve spoken consistently on commitment – if you say you’re going to do something, you do it; you finish what you start, and you don’t half-ass it. If you can’t or won’t abide those rules, you don’t even start. You can’t tell your kids one thing and do something else, so we do our very best to live this out. This means that even when we’re tired, or overwhelmed, we have to suck it up.

I’m training for two races right now, with the goal of finishing the half marathon in June at or just under two hours. That means work, because I have to take over 8 minutes off my best time. I have a training plan I’m doing my best to stick with. Travel and illness have derailed it a bit, but I’m back in the saddle this week, getting miles in. I’m even doing speed work, which I completely detest. More shocking, I’ve run in the rain. I’ve always been a fair-weather runner. I hate being out in the rain. But I have to put the miles in, so I shove a hat on my head, put on sunglasses to keep the rain out of my eyes, and get out there. I’ve also never run back-to-back days, much less three days in a row, but I’m doing it. I actually feel stronger, and have fewer issues with my hip and IT band than when  I was just running three days a week. It helps to have a friend holding me accountable, but I’ve committed to a goal, and it’s on me to finish it. That means there are nights I don’t go out because I have a long run early the next morning. That means getting up on a Saturday morning when I’d much rather sleep in. That means squeezing in runs even when I have a billion other things to get done. That means taking care of my body so it can carry me through 13.1 miles/

Big Man had some struggles with fully committing earlier this school year. He was out there at practice, but man, talk about phoning it in. Granted, he was struggling with growing pains, but he just would not push through. It came back to haunt him, and he learned a valuable lesson, one that didn’t come from us.

The Princess has been about commitment for years. When she chose dance over competitive soccer, she was mid-way through a soccer season. She knew she had to carry it out, finish the season with her team. Her soccer family was relying on her. They needed her to remain fully engaged until the end. It was rough….she was exhausted, but she fought until the very end of the very last game of her very last tournament. She decided to cheer in high school, so for nearly a year, she’s been at school almost every weekday morning at 6am to practice. That doesn’t begin to cover all the extra hours at camp, cheering at games, making posters and putting together gifts for athletes, working hard on pep rally routines. In the midst of all this, she’s done her best to maintain  her dance schedule.

Here’s the deal – your kids are going to learn to be committed to things if you aren’t showing them how. You can’t tell them to commit if you aren’t committed to whatever you’re doing. Some days it’s much harder than others, but you do it, even when it’s difficult, and you’re tired, and you’d much rather sit on the couch watching baseball movies all day.

That certain point

I don’t know about you, but I always seem to reach that certain point in the Holiday season when I’m tapped out – exhausted mentally, emotionally, physically – from all the demands, all the to-do’s, all the parties, shopping, planning, prep. I live on the verge of tears alternating with angry outbursts for a couple of days, and then it all comes back together again.

I reached that certain point this morning. The kids still have one more day of school after today. The older two are smack in the middle of first semester finals. They’re tired, overwhelmed, cranky, not so nice all the time. Little Man is feeling the stress of an upcoming change in routine. Big Man still needs to go to the mall to do his shopping, but I can’t find it in me to actually take him. My shopping is done, but the wrapping is only about halfway finished. Yet all I want to do is sit on the couch with my coffee, watching random, mindless tv.

Anyone else get in this funk every year? What do you do to pull yourself back up?


Pushing Back

Since Big Man was a toddler and the Princess a newborn, I have taken the kids for studio portraits every Christmas. It’s just what we do. I have a thing about getting pictures done of them – they grow up so quickly and change so much year-to-year. They’ve never argued over it, although we did have those years we all basically ended up in tears, and I walked out of the studio stressed out, covered in sweat, with the much-wanted perfect photo somehow in hand.

We had our session scheduled for yesterday.  I asked them to get changed half an hour before we were supposed to leave. Both olders rolled their eyes at me. THEY ROLLED THEIR EYES!!!! I was taken aback. I mean, really? You’re pushing back on Christmas pictures?

Plan A for their outfits had to be dumped when I discovered the red in the shirts I ordered for the boys was different, shirt-t-shirt. They totally clashed. So we went to Plan B, which definitely had a decidedly Southern-California feel. Anyone else wear shorts and t-shirts for Christmas pictures?

We arrived at the studio and there was a good amount of attitude from all three. I told them the more they cooperated, the more quickly we would be done and out of there. We fought through to get the minimum number of shots, with some grumbling and definitely more eyeball rolling.

I guess this is where we are now. They’re going to push back on this tradition every year from here on out. Really, they only have to endure it a couple more years, then Big Man will be off at college and we will have to come up with something besides studio portraits. They’re going to find I’m not going to let this tradition go until I absolutely have to. Someday, they’ll thank me for it, right?

These are just the last few years…….Someday I’ll scan all the rest of them.

Re-Introducing the Herd

The Herd has had an influx of followers the last few months (Go Herd!), so I thought it might be appropriate to reintroduce ourselves, and explain why three is a herd. This is a copy-and-paste from a long-ago post, but it covers the details. Happy Friday, all!

So….what is a herd exactly, and why do three make a herd?

When our third child was born, with the older two 3 1/2 and 2 1/2 respectively, my husband informed me we now had a herd. Having two kids is just having kids. Apparently, having three or more gives you herd status. Yes, I do frequently feel like I am a herder getting the kids out the door, getting them back in the door, getting them to bed, getting them to all their activities. Some would say my husband and I are outnumbered. I always smile and respond, “We still have more hands than we have kids,” meaning we still have one hand left between the two of us to grab someone or something. No, we will not be adding to the herd. This shop is closed!

When Little Man was 8 months old, we bought our big ole Expedition. I needed a vehicle that could hold three full-sized carseats in one row. And minivans were completely out of the question. Deal-breaker. I loved my Expedition. I loved my personalized plates even more, which mention the Herd. Everyone knows it’s us when we arrive somewhere. I do get some strange looks and/or comments – I guess there’s a video game that has something to do with a herd (I’m clueless what game, so if you know, please let me in on it).  Since we no longer use those big carseats, we’ve moved on to a smaller SUV, but I’ve retained the plates, and probably will as long as my Herd is living at home.

In addition to our three children, we also have three dogs – one small Yorkie, one medium Cocker Spaniel, and one large Labradoodle (more lab than poodle) – two cats, and fish. I live in a zoo.  My house is not my own. My herd owns it. I’m just the accepted caretaker.

Three is a herd because my husband said so. I love that we have a moniker. It’s us. It describes us fully.  Welcome to our herd.

The Gate, and other accidental traditions

My in-laws have a vineyard. Cool, right? It is totally cool. One of my favorite days of the year is Harvest. We get a heads-up about a month ahead of time, with a general idea of the harvest date. And then a firm date about two weeks ahead of time. Word goes out to friends whom have been asking for a month already when harvest is.

Years back, Harvest was moved from Saturday morning to Sunday morning, just to accommodate our sports/dance schedule. And trust me when I say it’s not easy to get up at 5am on a Sunday morning, even when you know the day is going to be amazing. But it is awesome…..picking grapes, tasting wines from years previous, the fog laying over the valley, the camaraderie of those who have braved the early morning for the experience, the smell of the coffee in your mug while walking through the vineyard, the sound of the camera clicking to capture the grapes, the vines, the people, the frantic activity in the kitchen as brunch is prepared and laid out…..

I don’t remember how many harvests had already happened in 2006. My babies were babies yet, with Little Man just 2 1/2 years old. The grapes had been picked and hauled off by the wine-makers. The brunch had been eaten. People were saying goodbye. At some point, I was with my precious herd in the courtyard, and the three of them stood at the gate, their backs to me, as they said goodbye to someone. I snapped a photo, loving the colors, the comparison of their sizes to each other, the gate in front of  them with its fall decorations. It remains one of my favorite photos of them, even though you can’t see their faces.


The Princess had just started her second year of Saturday-morning dance. Big Man was just in Kindergarten. Little Man was still wearing diapers. A moment captured in time.

I didn’t think about that photo at Harvest the following year, but the year after that, we ended up taking another photo of the three of them at the gate.


And then it became a thing. Distant friends and family would ask when harvest was – not to come, but to know when to watch for the newest gate photo.

Now, we take a picture of my three at the gate every single Harvest. I anticipate it every single year. As they’ve grown, I’ve grown more and more sentimental about this accidental tradition. Yesterday, my father-in-law gave an edict: The gate will be at all of their weddings, and a photo will be taken, and all the previous gate photos will be on display. Now, I know you all know I’m an emotional sap. I’ve become verklempt every time I think about it. My babies are growing up so very quickly.  These photos every Harvest are so evident of that. The first, Big Man’s head was barely halfway up the gate. Now, two of them are taller than the gate, and Little Man is above the edge at the bottom corner. Soon, Big Man will head off to college, and then there will be two. The year after that, the Princess will head off to college, and my gate picture will be of one.

This is what  we’re meant to do right? Raise them, and then watch them fly away. These photos, this accidental tradition, will show me not only how they’ve grown over the years, but will be a visual reminder of family, tradition, heritage, love.

Those hard questions

Yes, the Herd has been on something of a hiatus this summer. Truthfully, I’m still working on fitting all the new pieces of the puzzle together, and have been trying to just be in the moment rather than always thinking about how I’m going to write about the moment. What it comes down to is this: I’m freakin tired! No one ever told me having high schoolers – high schoolers involved in any kind of activity – means you essentially don’t get summer anymore. Bless, between a trip to Palm Springs, two weeks off from cheer practice, and Big Man being at cross country camp for five days, I’ve had a few sleep-in mornings, but we’ve had two (TWO!) beach days all summer, and one of those was over the weekend. I’ll update, at some point, what we’ve been up to. But for now, I give you this….

Remember the Princess likes to ask some of those “holy hell, what now?” questions, usually while we’re driving to or from dance? Yeah, that. She unleashed a few beasts last night. They’ve been twirling around my brain. First, she asked when I knew I didn’t want to be the same kind of mom my mom was. Wait, what? Not even going to touch that one here. Then she comes at me with, “What would you change about yourself as a mom?” Good grief. She doesn’t pull any punches, does she?

What would I change about myself as a mom? In some ways, I wish I were the mom that LOVED to get down on the floor and play board games with my kids. I detest board games. Drove me insane to even attempt them when the kids were little. Zero patience. Nada. Zip. Zero. But you go with what you’ve got, right? So I learned to accept I wasn’t that mom. Not a huge fan of the disaster crafts seem to leave behind either, but we’ve done our share…which accounts for the fabric paint on the kitchen table, family room carpet, and sofa, as well as the stack of contact-paper-laminated Thanksgiving and Christmas placemats taking up space in my buffet, (I actually really love taking those out every year – they make me smile), and who knows how many sheets covered in paint/glue/glitter. I don’t really like forts made out of sheets, pillows, couch cushions, blankets, and everything needed to hold said fort together. Why don’t I like them? Because I’m the one who only ever ends up putting everything away.

Are you sensing a theme here? I wish I cared less about messes. I wish I had more patience. I wish I was less easily frustrated. Those are the things I would change most about myself as a mom. Notice she didn’t ask me what I think I rock as a mom? That just dawned on me. Maybe I’ll bring that up when we’re driving to dress rehearsal tomorrow…equal time, right?

She also asked me what I would change about Big Man’s personality, the one so much like my own. I just see him doing things the same way I did in high school, in life, and I would (and do) push him for more – to do what he’s capable of, at the level he’s capable, to speak up for himself, to advocate for himself, to not give up when things get hard, to not always take the easiest path just because it’s easy.

And then she asked me what I would change about her. I’ve said before, I wish I’d been half what she is when I  was her age. She’s me, to the power of ten. She’s courageous. She’s a fighter. She goes after what she wants. She’s determined and focused. She sticks up for those who need a champion. She’s a perfectionist. She can be fearless. So what did I tell her I would change? It’s something most women probably need to change. I told her, when she compares herself to those around her, she only remarks on the negative. She doesn’t comment or even seem to notice/recognize her own strengths, those skills and traits with which she stands out.

Like I said, these questions have been floating around my mind since our conversation last night. It hit me when we were driving home from Costco this morning…she  never asked what I would change about Little Man. Maybe it’s obvious in her mind – take away  his autism. But when I asked her about that this morning, she said taking that away would change who he is completely, including the awesome and really cool parts of him. We would just make life easier for him.

She really doesn’t let me slide on this mothering thing. She has that tendency to ask me things I’d rather not address even in my own mind,  much less in a conversation with my daughter. But she makes me bring those things out into the light, look at them, analyze them, talk about them. Hopefully someday, I’ll see the results of these talks in the form of a healthy relationship with her, and seeing her as a successful mother to her own inquisitive daughter.